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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Romantic Movement

Alain de Botton

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To purchase The Romantic Movement

Title: The Romantic Movement
Author: Alain de Botton
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994
Length: 326 pages
Availability: The Romantic Movement - US
The Romantic Movement - UK
The Romantic Movement - Canada
Le plaisir de souffrir - France
  • Sex, Shopping and the Novel

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent idea, but falls short

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ D 29/5/1996 Gerhard Henschel
The LA Times C+ 8/6/1995 Richard Eder
The New Yorker . 21/8/1995 John Updike
The NY Times Book Rev. B 11/6/1995 Lisa Zeidner
San Francisco Chronicle B+ 2/7/1995 Michael Upchurch
Time A- 12/6/1995 Pico Iyer
The Washington Post . 23/7/1995 Jennifer Howard

  Review Consensus:

  No consensus. They all grant him his wit, but opinions differ on the book as a whole -- successful portrait of modern love or two-dimensional fiction.

  From the Reviews:
  • "Alain de Botton hat Humor. Um das nachdrücklich zu beweisen, hat er seinen Roman Romantische Bewegung mit zahlreichen Diagrammen und Grafiken ausgestattet (.....) Für den Leser ist damit nichts gewonnen. (...) Es wird überhaupt viel doziert und erläutert in diesem Roman." - Gerhard Henschel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "What makes The Romantic Movement so tedious is not so much its absurdly overdressed style as the meagerness of the figures it dresses. Much of the time, Alice and Eric could as well be the generic A and E of a case study. They lack the presumable historical truth of a case study, and the texture of a successful fictional character. It is almost as if Botton had created intellectual and social inferiors in order to patronize them." - Richard Eder, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Mr. de Botton borrows exuberantly, and well, from his forbears. What's fresh here is the willingness to stretch the gag to this absurd length not once, but twice -- since On Love was almost the very same book (with slightly more plot but fewer pictures). Therein lies the buoyant charm of the approach, and its occasional eye-rolling irritation." - Lisa Zeidner, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(A) lively sense of humor laces the book, whether de Botton is exploring the cerebral convolutions behind the blandest of statements or drawing a thumbnail sketch of a minor character. His whimsical categorizations of personality types (for instance, "the in-love-with-love lover") and his outlandish analogies have an affinity with the meticulous imaginings of Nicholson Baker, and the novel is spiced with choice insights of every variety." - Michael Upchurch, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Light as a souffle, and no less addictive, The Romantic Movement is that happiest of artifacts, a novel that smiles." - Pico Iyer, Time

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Romantic Movement is a modern story of modern love. It is the story of Alice, who works in advertising, and Eric, who works in banking, and the relationship that develops (and then dissolves) between them. De Botton uses them as a case study, examining all the aspects that go into their relationship (including the "sex, shopping and the novel" of the subtitle), drawing graphs and floorplans and useful illustrations to illustrate his points.
       De Botton's work tends towards a melding of fiction and essay. He has found an approach that works for him, and he does what he does quite well. There's wit, learned (but not academically dry) digressions, literary asides. This he does particularly well.
       The actual fiction -- the story -- he does less well. He tries to create characters, tries to make something of Alice and Eric. He provides them with backgrounds and interests and careers and ambitions. And still they fall flat. They aren't characters we grow to care deeply about. Fatally, they aren't even characters we get very interested in.
       Alice and Eric and their relationship allow De Botton to speculate, theorize, and ruminate on all aspects of love. He has any number of clever ideas here, and a lot of this is a great deal of fun. Unfortunately, Alice and Eric are presented almost as though their sole raison d'être is to serve as examples for De Botton to make his points. Try as he might, he can't imbue them with a sense of self. They remain shade and shadow.
       As a love story The Romantic Movement falls flat; as an analysis of love in modern times it affords some pleasure. An entertaining, if not wholly convincing book.

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The Romantic Movement: Reviews: Alain de Botton: Other books by Alain de Botton under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       English author Alain de Botton was born in Switzerland in 1969 and educated at Cambridge.

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